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Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 31;7:13237. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13237.

Solar water splitting by photovoltaic-electrolysis with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency over 30.

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  • 1Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 350 Serra Mall, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  • 2Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, 443 Via Ortega, Shriram Center Room 305, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  • 3Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Jurong Island 627833, Singapore.
  • 4Solar Junction, 401 Charcot Avenue, San Jose, California 95131, USA.


Hydrogen production via electrochemical water splitting is a promising approach for storing solar energy. For this technology to be economically competitive, it is critical to develop water splitting systems with high solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiencies. Here we report a photovoltaic-electrolysis system with the highest STH efficiency for any water splitting technology to date, to the best of our knowledge. Our system consists of two polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysers in series with one InGaP/GaAs/GaInNAsSb triple-junction solar cell, which produces a large-enough voltage to drive both electrolysers with no additional energy input. The solar concentration is adjusted such that the maximum power point of the photovoltaic is well matched to the operating capacity of the electrolysers to optimize the system efficiency. The system achieves a 48-h average STH efficiency of 30%. These results demonstrate the potential of photovoltaic-electrolysis systems for cost-effective solar energy storage.

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